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A Marriage of Origami and Robotics

By Harvard Gazette

June 30, 2010

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Researchers at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are learning to reshape the landscape of programmable matter by devising self-folding sheets that rely on the ancient art of origami.

The research team demonstrated how a single thin sheet composed of interconnected triangular sections could transform itself into a boat or plane shape--without the help of skilled fingers. The findings were published in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday (June 28).

The lead authors are Robert Wood, associate professor of electrical engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and Daniela Rus, a professor in the electrical engineering and computer science department at MIT and co-director of the CSAIL Center for Robotics. Using a concept called programmable matter by folding, the researchers envision creating "smart" cups that could adjust based upon the amount of liquid needed, or even a "Swiss army knife" that could form into tools ranging from wrenches to tripods.

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